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Humidity islands in the Cerrado

Field of termite mounds in the municipality of Águas de Santa Bárbara, São Paulo

Bruna Helena de Campos/Unicamp

A termite mound field was found in the state of São Paulo for the first time, located within the Santa Bárbara Ecological Reserve (EECSB) in Águas de Santa Bárbara. More commonly found in Midwest Brazil and the north of Minas Gerais, these environments “function like large sponges, retaining rainwater, filtering it, and then slowly releasing it to supply water bodies in the dry season,” explains University of Campinas (UNICAMP) biologist Bruna Helena Campos, one of the scientists behind the study. The field of termite mounds, spread across an area of 3.5 hectares (35,000 square meters), was home to 64 plant species, of which 59 grow on the mounds themselves and 22 in surrounding areas, including trees and shrubs endemic to the Cerrado (a wooded savanna biome), such as the dwarf cashew nut (Anacardium humile), marolo (Annona crassiflora), pequi (Caryocar brasiliense), and catuaba (Anemopaegma arvense), in addition to grass species. The termite mounds, first identified by aerial photos, were revealed in 2013 when the pine trees that previously hid them from view were cut down (Biota Neotropica, March).